Wednesday, August 6, 2014

My most peaceful dreamy dreams are of field hockey. I'm on the field, stick in hand, mouth-guard tucked into the top of my sock while the ref wasn't looking. I don't know why these are peaceful dreams. They weren't peaceful games, but maybe it's because the field hockey field was a place where I could be completely aggressive in my youth, viciously so, my role was so simple, and there's some peace in that. It's this time of year when I get nervous -- I'm out of shape and pre-season still seems to be looming. As a kid, my identity was that of athlete. I was small and fast and it was where I had this unexpected power. My gym teachers always pulled my mother aside at open houses and told her that I should be a gymnast. My mother told them flatly that it would stunt my growth and, look at her, she needs all the growth she can get. Unlike many of my writer friends, I wasn't inside reading a book; I was arranging kickball, living for Capture the Flag, and -- well, this is another side of myself -- trying to arrange elaborate, seemingly impromptu song and dance numbers that we would break into -- again, seemingly as strangers -- at the 7 Eleven. I also had a best friend who was a flag twirler and learned all of her choreography in summers. And, when the marching band played in the parking lot next to the field hockey field, I could twirl my field hockey stick with precision. I also talked some of my teammates into doing a rendition of Why Do Fools Fall in Love, which we once performed at half-time while scouting another team. My coach, who terrified me in so many ways, allowed my great latitude when it came to my desire to put on show. I think of that coach often. I remember my legs shaking in a row of girls doing wall sits against the concrete of my high school. As writers, we always talk about keeping our asses in the chair -- that that's the key, just staying. I think of how she prepped me for that; at least I get a chair. At around 12, I got in trouble for slapping my friend. It was right outside of her house and, with stroke of bad luck, my mother was inside that house visiting with her mother. As it was summer, I had two punishment options -- no more Pacman for the rest of summer or staying inside for one entire day. I picked the latter. One day. How hard could that be? But I could hear people playing four-square from my window -- double-tap, no double-taps, dervish (a move my father invented when the litigator would come out to play with us after work -- his extra rules were, well, complexly layered, as one would expect). I couldn't bear staring out the window. I went downstairs and asked if I could trade my punishment for no more Pacman. My mother agreed. I was free. (I also almost didn't get to play in the state tournament b/c of an assembly in which I got hysterical laughing at a row of bishops with a friend. We had to apologize -- sincerely.) I was a very energetic kid. I would try to sit still and eat peanut butter to help me bloom into womanhood; it just never worked. I had to get up and do elaborate routines on the sofa -- handstands teetering near the bank of windows. I voluntarily took gym all four years of high school. And I'm still a pacer. Talk to me on the phone and I'm moving. I've tried to start up walking conferences with students. I think better when I pace. My husband has continued to be an athlete and I haven't. No time. I miss having something at stake -- some clear purpose. I miss, to be honest, the very specific knock of the ball against the perfectly driven field hockey stick. I miss the kinetic joy of the perfect flick. I miss the narrative braiding structure of the give and go. And sometimes point of view can only be described from one field hockey player to another -- in terms of an obstruction call. I hate working out. I miss competition and a team of girls who might have little in common but suddenly have one goal -- pure and simple, to win a game.
(It might be that I just miss girlhood.)